Carl Edwards has kept his NASCAR Sprint Cup championship hopes alive with a pair of excellent wins over the last two weekends. Edwards scored his seventh win of the year at the high-banked Atlanta Motor Speedway on October 26th, then took his eighth win in dominant style on Sunday at the equally fast Texas Motor Speedway.
The 29-year old Edwards led most of the race in Texas and held on to win by saving fuel and pussy-footing his way to the chequered flag as he ran 69 laps or more than 103 miles on his last load of fuel. Edwards described his conversation over the radio in the closing laps with crew chief Bob Osborne
“First Bob said, ‘We’re two-tenths of a lap short so conserve.’ Then he came back and said, ‘No, we’re four laps short, so just go real hard and we’ll pit.’ Then he came back again and said, ‘Conserve, conserve.’ So we weren’t too sure about it and I’m really glad it worked out. We’re closing ground on Jimmie.”
Thanks to his back-to-back wins in Atlanta and Texas Edwards has trimmed Jimmie Johnson’s championship lead to 106 points with two races remaining. Edwards has driven for Jack Roush’s five-car Roush Fenway/Ford team for the last five years and won last year’s second division Nationwide championship. His best season in the Sprint Cup series prior to this year came in 2005 when he won four races and finished third in the championship. But this year Edwards has been a frontrunner in many races and has now won as many races as Kyle Busch and two more than championship leader Johnson.
The defending Sprint Cup champion scored his sixth win of the year on the Martinsville short track two weeks ago. At Atlanta the next weekend Johnson came back from losing a lap early in the race to finish a strong second behind Edwards, but Johnson had a tough time in Texas coming home a lap down in fourteenth place.
The result enabled Edwards to reduce Johnson’s championship lead by 38 points. Edwards’ team-mate Greg Biffle finished fifth in Texas and hangs onto third in the championship, 143 points behind Johnson.
“It was frustrating,” Johnson commented. “We thought we were going to run better than that. We just have to keep fighting hard and we’re going to a track next week that’s great for us.”
A 312-lap, 500-kilometre race follows next Sunday on the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway where Johnson won last year. The NASCAR season concludes the following weekend with a 400-mile race on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway where Edwards’s team-mate Matt Kenseth won last season.
Can Edwards beat Johnson to this year’s Sprint Cup title? If nothing else, he’s entirely capable of pushing the championship decision down to the closing laps at Homestead-Miami in two weeks. It looks like being a classic battle down to the wire.